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Refinishing Wood Stairs in Your Home

Your stairs are an important part of your home. If you have wood stairs, they lend your home an air of beauty and elegance, and help to provide more life. If your wood stairs are looking a bit worse for wear, or you find that you’d like to change their look, you’ll need to know a bit more about how to refinish stairs properly. Refinishing stairs is similar to refinishing hardwood flooring (you might want to consider doing it in concert with your floors). Updating the look of wood stairs in your home is a relatively simple process.


The first thing you’ll need to do when refinishing  stairs is examine them for gouges or scratches that cannot be removed through sanding. If there are, you should consider replacing those areas, unless you can minimize them with sanding and don’t mind their presence (they can often add character).

Before you start any work, make sure there is no electrical wiring running up the stairs. If there is, remove it. You also need to remove any moulding installed on your stairs. You might want to refinish it while it is removed, as well.


You will need to lightly sand the planks of your stairs to remove the finish. Make sure you sand with the grain. A power-edging sander is the best option, rather than doing it by hand. Use coarse paper to remove the finish and then a finer grade to smooth out the planks. You also need to sand your riser planks (the riser is the vertical portion of the step, as opposed to the horizontal tread). A hand sander will be the best tool here (manual).


Now it’s time to clean off the stairs, removing sawdust and any other debris. Anything left on the stairs will be caught in the new finish, so make sure you clean it well. You can use a broom, handheld brush and vacuum cleaner to remove debris.


Once your stairs are clean, it’s time to apply the stain. Make sure that you use a brush, rather than a roller. When your stairs have been fully stained, allow the coat to dry. As soon as the stain has dried, you’ll need to clean your stairs again, before applying a coat of polyurethane lacquer. Build up a series of three layers of lacquer – this will protect your finish from damage by heavy traffic.

If all this sounds like a lot of work, you might consider hiring a professional stair contractor for your wood refinishing project. While wood refinishing  can be relatively simple, working with a professional will give you additional options.

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